For a long time now, too long in fact, various collectable dinosaur companies have tried and failed to make a properly feathered and accurate representation of one of the world’s most popular dinosaurs; Velociraptor and its kin the stem-birds we call dromaeosaurs or “raptors.” When I first started collecting dinosaur toys the best representations included those by Bullyland and CollectA and while we commend their efforts to popularize feathered dinosaurs they ultimately failed to make convincing looking animals. Even more recently companies like Favorite and Papo have tried and failed to make much more than a lizard in a chicken costume. As such my shelf is sadly devoid of feathered dromaeosaurs. I would rather have good outdated naked models than halfhearted attempts at accurate animals.
I think where companies and by extension the artists they hire fail is in one simple rule that seems like common sense in hindsight: if it had feathers, it looked like a bird. Instead of using a reptile as your starting point it makes much more sense to use a bird. In the wake of another dinosaur renaissance urged on by a new generation of artists like John Conway, Emily Willoughby, Matthew Martyniuk, and Mark Witton we’re finally seeing the most realistic looking dinosaurs ever put to paper and they’re not the savage reptiles of antiquity but rather the sort of animals your grandmother might feed outside her window.
Toy companies and model makers are starting to catch up with art and science with this year’s releases by Safari being hailed as the new standard in dinosaur depictions. Multiple dinosaurs in the line are feathered in a realistic way we’ve never seen: a truly epic and unprecedented Tyrannosaurus, feather coated and lithe Coelopyhsis, and now, finally, a properly avian looking Velociraptor.
The new Safari Velociraptor measures 8.39″ long, stands 2.73″ tall, and was sculpted by Doug Watson who continues to hone his trade each passing year. This Velociraptor is literally the first of its kind. The feather placement is absolutely spot-on, complete with primary feathers anchored to the middle digit and a luxurious fan of feathers along the tail. Most of all, and I can’t stress this enough, it looks like a bird. And there is no doubt that Velociraptor and its kin would have looked like birds. Unlike past attempts by other companies the feathery covering does much to obscure the shape of the actual animal within them. The neck is especially thick and fluffy. We’re used to Velociraptor with a long S-curved neck. This is accurate, modern birds have the same thing. It’s kind of a theropod hallmark. With most modern birds you just can’t see it under all the fluff and it makes sense that some feathered dinosaurs would have been similarly obscured by their plumage. Other Velociraptor trademarks are here too. The narrow curved snout, long stiff tail, hyperextended toe, and neutral 3 fingered hands.
If dromaeosaurs could be compared to any modern animals it would no doubt be the animals traditionally called raptors (birds of prey) in a pre-“Jurassic Park” world. This raptor indeed looks raptor-like (please excuse the word play) and the colors it’s reproduced in further enforces that. Doug Watson himself said the colors were originally inspired by the large and regal ferruginous hawk of western North America. The plumage is mostly a burnt orange color with some black highlights on the body. The tail and primary feathers are tipped in brown with beautiful white speckling. The head stands out with a black crown and nape and some white striping trailing away from the eyes. The eyes themselves are orange with round black pupils. The snout is brown and studded with numerous tiny teeth that are meticulously painted with little runoff despite the tiny size. The scaly hands and feet are an olive color with brown scutes and light brown nails. The underside of the toy is painted white. Overall the color is both eye-catching and realistic without being too gaudy.
The model is posed with the tail lifted high but supported by the tips of the wing feathers. Obviously these sorts of compromises are necessary to make the toy stand but unlike previous tripod attempts at a Velociraptor this one is much less offensive. If I did have any complaint about the posture it would be the open mouth but that’s something I complain about with every theropod toy.
All in all this is just a fantastic model and just the sort of Velociraptor I’ve been longing for. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come from Safari and other toy companies take note. I urge every collector to pick this gem up. Vote with your money and tell toy companies that THIS is the kind of model you want on your shelf. I could continue to gush over this model for many more pages but I’ll spare you that, this review has already run on longer than most but this toy is truly the Velociraptor to which all other figures will be compared. As a final note I would like to thank Dan of Dan’s Dinosaurs for generously donating this model for review.
The Safari Ltd. Velociraptor is now available for purchase at Dan’s Dinosaurs.